BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -
Assistant Coach Kenny Johnson, along with Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo, met with the media on Tuesday to discuss Wednesday's game vs. Penn State at 7 p.m. ET on BTN. Below is a transcript of what they had to say.
On the differences in Penn State since the first time they played them:
"I think they are starting to gel. You look at their performances in their last two games. Earlier in the year, I think getting ready to start conference play, when you lose a player like (Tim) Frazier, you're still trying to identify roles and have guys step up into their new roles. And I think that as the season has gone along they have a better understanding of what they are trying to accomplish.
"Their main two guys scoring the ball for them, (Jermaine) Marshall and (D.J.) Newbill, have still been doing a good job of that and they started to do a couple of things differently defensively and they've been tweaking their offense so they pose some different challenges. The game plan pretty much remains the same as far as understanding what their strengths and weaknesses are but they're a little more cohesive than they've been, as most teams have been throughout the year."
On Marshall's play lately, including 29 points against Michigan State:
"(He's) just being relentless. It's really game-by-game who is going to step up for them. They have very capable scorers on that team. In that particular game, I think that he got to the foul line a little more than he has in the past. He's the type of a player that you have to account for. He's going to consistently make jump shots, especially if he's open. In that particular game, I thought that he came out with that aggressive mentality and kind of carried it on throughout the game."
On what he is looking for from Indiana:
"Consistency. We've been very pleased with our toughness. This is a very tough, resilient group. Just having that consistency on defense that we are looking for is a huge emphasis for us. I think it bears out in the numbers when you look at us and are nationally compared to other teams in the country and it's something that we are taking pride in. We understand defense is going to be necessary for us to win this championship, whether it be a Big Ten championship or a national championship, and we don't hide that those are our goals. As you go through the course of the season, you really dive into the scouting reports, you really dive into each individual matchup and the Big Ten is a great barometer for that because you're going to get a different style each and every night. So you really dive into the opponent and try and take away their strengths. Each night you go out there, it's like having a series of quizzes before you get ready for the test. In going through those quizzes, I think that we've been very pleased with how we've performed on the defensive end as we prepare."
On Kevin (Yogi) Ferrell's defense in the first game against Penn State and how big it would be to get something like that again:
"Yogi is a very good defensive player and obviously his defensive prowess is going to bear out as we get further and further into this season, especially with where we are trying to go. His ability to pick up, understand what our philosophy is on defense and his ability to dive into the scouting report and hopefully, if not take away his opponent's strengths, limit them or force them into a high-volume shot to get their numbers is very important for us. Yogi is someone who works at it each and every day. He has that great ability to move onto the next play very quickly, whether it be a good play or a bad play for him.
"He's shown maturity beyond his years as far as his willingness to take on the opponents, on certain nights, their best player and really dive into taking them away and limiting them, so he's been very good for us. That kind of started off for us, in my opinion, in the last game his willingness to play Newbill and the way he does. It's a team defensive game. He understands that the people behind him have his back. We have talked to you before about the communication that's necessary for us to have a great defensive basketball team and the more we communicate on the ball and off the ball that helps him feel more comfortable. He's just gaining the experience as we go along and he's just getting stronger and stronger in that area."
On if there is anything different in their approach from the first game:
"I wouldn't necessarily say the game plan wouldn't change because you always recognize certain things that they are doing well that you have to prepare for and account for. There are obviously certain things that we are doing that we have felt we have gotten better at or certain things that we need to tighten up that they are going to attack. As a whole, you understand what their strengths are. Their strengths are still their strengths and they're doing certain things a bit little different when they went zone. They were playing 2-3 pretty exclusively in the past, now they are showing some 3-2 looks in it. At times they had a couple of possessions where they were running and jumping at the ball, full-court pressure. So from a philosophy standpoint it's pretty similar but they are certain things. I have a lot of respect for their coaching staff, I've known them for years. I know they are going to take a look at the game film like we took a look at the game film and try to identify things that they can take advantage of or attempt to take advantage and we're going to do the same thing."
On Newbill and Marshall emerging since the first time they played:
"It's pretty much the same preparation. Have they improved? I mean each game has a different flow to it. I wouldn't necessarily say it was something that we did that stopped them. They've had better games over the course of the season. At times, one of them has a big game where the other is more of a facilitator. I think they're coming in with a more aggressive approach. I think they recognize now that for their team to be as successful as they want to be, they have to be aggressive. The guys that are on the team with them are doing a good job of getting the basketball but I feel like (Ross) Travis has a good game against us. He really caused some problems on the offensive boards when we played them.
"When you have other players step up, and you see that a lot on our team, if Cody Zeller doesn't score 20 points, everybody is wondering what's wrong with Cody Zeller? When you have five guys averaging in double figures it tends to slow down, obviously everyone can't score. I think in that game, I thought they had other players that stepped up and then we did have one of our better games defensively. I think they had 51 points. It was a little bit slower pace than what they've played at these past few games, but I think that as a whole their team average points per game has gone up to about 68 points here recently. So when you're playing a faster pace, then the guys are having a little more offensive freedom to put more points on the board."
On Penn State being more confident:
"They are a confident bunch. Sometimes they don't get the win - they have been on a losing streak recently - but they are always confident. They play like they are on a five-game winning streak because those are the kinds of guys they have. They are always going to play hard and give it everything they have and we know we can't take them lightly."
On what Indiana has improved upon since the start of Big Ten play:
"Everyone has played their role pretty well. Throughout the year we kind of figure out what we are good at and what we need to bring to the team and I think we are all doing a good job of staying inside of what we do best. Everyone has to keep improving each day through practice and games and everyone is getting better."
On facing team for the second time in a short timespan:
"It helps that we have played them once already because we know them. Actually playing a team is a lot different than watching them on film. They have gotten a lot better since we played them, so we watched some of their more recent games and we can see their improvement."
On how Penn State has changed since playing them the first time on Jan. 7:
"They are a better team. They have been playing in the Big Ten and really tight games. They are very capable of winning games in the Big Ten. We know that they are better, but we are better as well so we have to go out and play at high level at both ends of the floor tomorrow."
On where Indiana is better since that Jan. 7 meeting:
"I think at both ends of the floor. We have been working really hard on our defense. Even when our shots are falling, we still have to play defense at a high level. I think we did a pretty good job of that the last game so we have to try to keep that going."
On how important Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell's defense on D.J. Newbill was in the first game:
"It was huge and now he has to continue to do that, not only against Penn State, but against everyone. When he plays like that, it helps us as a team. It slows down their point guard and it makes it tough for them to run their sets."
On having a defensive mindset and how important it is for younger players to come in with it:
"It is huge. I know it's a cliché, but defense wins championships and games. When you have people like that come in and try to make an impact on the defensive end, it is huge for the program."
On what Penn State is doing differently the last couple games that have led to some big individual games for Newbill and Jermaine Marshall:
"They just continue to attack. They know they have to have great games for their team to win, so they will go out and try to do whatever it takes. Whether that is score 30 points or get a big stop on defense, that's why I believe they are playing at a high level right now."
On playing a team that is hungry for its first Big Ten win of the season and the dangers that presents:
"There is a danger for every team in the Big Ten. It is the Big Ten. It's the best conference in the country. Just because they have not won a (conference) game doesn't mean they are not capable of winning one. We can't take anyone in this league lightly, whether it's Penn State or the number one team in the in the league."